The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, and it is one of the busiest times of the year for each club’s Hockey Operations department and the club’s pro scouting staff in particular.
Here is a Q and A piece featuring Kings Pro Scout Alyn McCauley as he discusses the day and his job on the whole:
Q: Alyn, you transitioned from a player on the ice to a scouting role. Obviously injuries played a factor for you but when did this type of job come into focus for you as you ultimately retired as a player and then transitioned here as a scout?
A: Well it came out of left field about five years ago. I took a year off once my knees had enough of the game from playing. Then the following year I jumped into coaching back at Queens University. Then I got a call that I wasn’t expecting and it’s been a great ride since then. Ron Hextall called me in the middle of the summer and asked me if I was interested in some kind of opportunity with the team and it ended up being the Pro Scouting job and it’s been a lot of work but it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of learning alongside Rob Laird as well as Steve Greeley.
Q: You were on the ice as a player for hundreds of games in the NHL. Regarding what’s going on from a scouting standpoint, do you as a player have any sense of that job and what’s going on behind the scenes? Obviously you’re focused on hockey as a player but has it been eye opening or was it what you did expect?
A: One of the big eye openers for me was that as a player you just assume there are so many players out there but once you breakdown the position, the type of player that you are after, the salary that they’re going to make, how they’re going to fit in to your team as well as your salary cap, the number shrinks considerably. And there aren’t as many players as you’d think that I did when I was in the game and it’s challenging. There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes and sometimes it doesn’t come to fruition of a trade or bringing someone on board who’s going to help the team. Sometimes that’s the help. The benefit the team gets from all that work is that you don’t bring the wrong guy into your dressing room. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes from evaluating and getting as much information on players as you can. I didn’t realize the scouting world was as challenging and demanding as it is.
Q: Obviously you can’t go to every NHL or AHL game or games in Europe. Are things split up into regions and do you have a general area that you focus on geographically?
A: Yes, Rob Laird and I split up the teams basically in half to about 14 each in the NHL, and then we have about 10 main teams that we’re responsible for in the AHL as well as Joe Patterson having 10 teams at the AHL level to help us out. It adds up to a lot of games and a lot of hockey watched. We try and watch as many games and have about three or four reports on each player so that when Dean Lombardi comes calling we know the player as well as we can and can make educated decisions on player personnel and whether we should pick up somebody, trade for somebody or sign somebody in the summer.
Q: Trade deadline is an exciting time for the fans. There’s a lot of hockey talk and buzz. As a scout is it an exciting time for you guys as well?
A: It is but a lot times it’s anticlimactic. There’s such a buildup, they’ve got the TSN deadline day and they cover about 13 hours and there’s a few trades that are made but you put in all that work and somebody picks up the guy that you wanted. As I said, that number as you start out there could be 150 left wingers and once you break it down and figure out which guys you want there’s about three and two might not be available and one gets signed or traded to another team. Sometimes you do get the guy you want like we did a couple years ago with Jeff Carter and sometimes you just end up empty handed and you move on. We’ve got a good team here so we’ll try and improve it and tweak it as best we can but we also believe in the group we have here too.
Q: What is the general feel as player come trade deadline time? I’m sure players are checking their phones, watching TV and listening to sports talk radio.
A: Yeah I played for almost 10 years and probably went through a cycle of being young and naïve and not really knowing or expecting it. Then one day I was traded to San Jose and went through a stage where I felt pretty secure in my position. Towards the end of my career I was more up in limbo and a little more nervous come trade deadline day because I thought there was a possibility that my wife and kids would have to pack up and move to a new city. I probably went through the full spectrum and for some guys, more than others, it can be a hectic and nervous day.
Interview by Jeff Moeller; special thanks to Martin Ibarra